Collaborative Leadership Tiered Interventions Start with General Education

by Denyse Doerries, Ph.D., and Louise Smith, M.S.

The No Child Left Behind legislation (NCLB) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) both focus on the quality of the instruction students receive in the general education classroom. As mentioned in the previous article, the response-to-intervention model suggested by IDEIA is intended to change the identification process, placing it within the context of the student receiving evidenced-based instructional strategies in the general education classroom. The literature suggests that in order to address the diverse needs of students, a tiered system of interventions that can modify the type and intensity of instruction is needed (Kovaleski, 2003; Vaughn, 2003).

Tiers of intervention refer to the layering of instruction over time in response to a student's learning needs. Such a system has the flexibility of being able to catch students early and intervene before they fall behind (Vaughan, 2003). A number of researchers suggest a three- tier model. Typically, in a three-tier model, Tier 1 provides research-based strategies in the general education classroom; Tier 2 provides more intensive, small-group interventions of up to 20 weeks; and Tier 3 provides more intensive long-term interventions (Kovaleski, 2003).

Another approach to providing a continuum of instructional services is the Strategic Instruction Model (SIM) Content Literacy Continuum (CLC) developed by the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning. This model proposes five levels of a schoolwide literacy program to address the needs of students. The greater the students' needs, the more levels of intervention are used. The following describes the five levels of intervention on the Content Literacy Continuum.

Level 1 addresses all literary levels through teacher-focused instructional practices known as Content Enhancement Routines. General education content is organized and presented to students through strategically designed advanced organizers that increase students' ability to organize, understand, remember, and apply critical content.

Level 2 includes Learning Strategy instruction within the general education curriculum. Student-focused, Learning Strategy instruction teaches students skills and strategies to help them interact and make connections with the general education curriculum across content areas.

Level 3 addresses the needs of those students who have difficulty generalizing the Learning Strategy instruction across the content areas by providing small group, intense direct instruction, modeling, and practice of Learning Strategies for 15-20 minutes daily delivered by support personnel. This short-term direct instruction approach may look like after-school programming, direct small group instruction within the general education classroom, or pull-out instruction.

Level 4 addresses the needs of those students who lack fundamental reading skills by providing intensive, diagnostic reading instruction delivered by a reading specialist, special education teacher, or a speech/language pathologist. This form of prescriptive reading instruction is usually delivered in a group of 3-5 students in a resource setting.

Level 5 incorporates metacognitive and/or metalinguistic clinical instruction for students with diagnosed learning or language disorders. Special educators and speech/language pathologists are responsible for this intensive, one-on-one strategy instruction necessary for acquisition of fundamental reading skills. (The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning, 2004)

As school administrators consider ways to meet the challenges of NCLB and IDEIA, they will have to consider research-based models that can help create the continuum of services necessary to improve the academic outcomes for both general and special education students.


Kovaleski, J.F. (2003, December). The three tier model for identifying learning disabilities: Critical program features and system issues. Paper presented at the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities Responsiveness-to-Intervention Symposium, Kansas City, MO.

The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning Institute for Effective Instruction. Strategic instructional model. Retrieved December 8, 2004, from

Vaughn, S. (2003). How many tiers are needed for response to intervention to achieve acceptable prevention outcomes? Paper presented at the National Research Center on Learning Disabilities Responsiveness-to-Intervention Symposium, Kansas City, MO.

Date: February/March 2005